The UK is home to a great collection of golf courses and, despite the iffy weather from time to time, remains one of the very best golf break destinations in the world. From the Highlands in Scotland to the rolling hills of Wales and the charming coastline of Devon and Cornwall, there are golf courses of all shapes and sizes and no matter your taste you are sure to find something for you. Weekend golf breaks and golf tours are a great way of exploring the golfing treasures the UK has to offer and for those of you who like a bit of competitive golf, open competitions are also run throughout the year at the very best venues. Here are ten of the best…
1 – Woodhall Spa
With two fantastic championship courses including the majestic Hotchkin Course – ranked 25th best course in the world and 2nd in England – Woodhall Spa – the home of the English Golf Union – is a fantastic place to escape for a weekend golf break. Firm, sandy heathland fairways, incredible bunkering and ancient woodlands are the main features of both of these outstanding golf courses and if you fancy a bit of competitive golf in a classic English inland setting Woodhall Spa will be tough to top.
2 – Dundonald Links
Kyle Philips has forged such a strong reputation among modern day golf course architects that he is rightly considered to be one of the front runners of his profession. Success stories such as The Grove in Hertfordshire and the amazing Kingsbarns in Scotland are among his past projects so the Dundonald Links really had something to live up to. Philips hasn’t disappointed with his latest Scottish effort as Dundonald Links has become widely recognised as one of the finest new golf courses in the UK. All of the links essentials are present; deep choppy rough awaits any errant tee shots, pot bunkers are a constant threat, burns snake their way around the course and the wind that rolls in from the Firth of Clyde can truly transform the course. Pine trees provide an unusual but welcome backdrop on a select few holes and the overall experience at Dundonald is hard to come by anywhere else in Scotland.
3 – Trevose
Thanks to famous names such as Royal St Georges, Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham & St Anne’s, links gems like Trevose can remain relatively unknown to many golfers in the UK. However this doesn’t mean they lack in quality; quite the opposite in fact. The Championship Course at Trevose is one of the finest in the UK and lovers of links golf will not be disappointed by what is on offer on the Cornish coastline. The remarkable beauty of the Cornish coast is the backdrop for Colt’s 6,863 yard classic, which is comprised of two loops; the outward half hugs the rugged seaside, before you turn for home and play the inward links of the closing stretch. Golfers will battle the elements that batter this exposed landscape, where the smooth and pure putting surfaces are protected by treacherous pot bunkers and severe rough. Links golf at it best!
4 – Sunningdale
Sunningdale is just one of many sublime golf courses situated along the famous Surrey Sandbelt and you can play some competitive golf there in 2012. Two outstanding heathland courses – The Old and The New – await golfers at Sunningdale. Sunningdale’s Old Course, which was formulated in 1901 by Willie Park Jnr., is a classic parkland layout, where every individual hole is carved through the mature woodland, presenting one of the most pleasurable golfing experiences to be found anywhere in the country. The New has a distinctly different character to its elder sibling, but is by no means inferior. Colt’s design is more rugged and masculine, and is a beautiful place to enjoy inland golf.
5 – Royal Aberdeen
Royal Aberdeen isn’t the best known of Scotland’s classic links courses but it remains a top class test of golf all the same. The quality of this James Braid design – now being overseen by Donald Steel – is plain to see and was underlined by the fact that Royal Aberdeen was chosen to host the 2011 Walker Cup. This is raw links golf, where golfers can expect no protection from the elements and to be challenged by thick rough and, of course, treacherous pot bunkers. Beware on your approach to the signature 8th hole which is protected by no less than 10 of the bloody things!
6 – Hillside
Although Hillside is not as well known as its Southport neighbours who have hosted Open Championships – think Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham & St Anne’s – it is, in many people’s eyes, one of the very finest tests of golf in the UK. Cut through the awesome sand dunes that define the Southport coast, Hillside features all of the quintessential links golf attributes as well as some additional feature that really make the course stand out from the crowd. Towering pine trees provide a dramatic border to many holes and a competitive round of golf here is sure to live long in the memory.
7 – Royal St Davids
Royal St. David’s may not be the most easily accessible golf course to break into the world’s top 100, but its position is thoroughly justified thanks to its remarkable layout. Situated in the spectacular Harlech area in Wales’ North West, the golf course reflects the majestic character of the local land, and has frequently hosted international amateur and professional events. Although Royal St David’s is relatively short compared with more modern golf courses, the subtle and quirky links attributes that appear all over the course make it a real challenge for golfers of all abilities.
8 – Saunton West
Many golfers share the opinion that the two Courses at Saunton are among the best in the UK never to have hosted the Open Championship and I for one would have to agree. Hidden among the towering dunes on the Devon coastline, the West Course at Saunton offers 18 of the finest and most dramatic links golf in the country. As well as the sense of drama provided by the imposing dunes, the West also features a set of burns and streams that snake their way around the course, not to mention some of the best putting surfaces in the whole country. For those of you who enjoy battling the elements as much as your opponents then this is for you!
The St Andrews Old Course needs no introduction. The oldest golf course in the world is known as the ‘Home of Golf’ and is the one course that the vast majority of golfing aficionados would play above all others. Flanked by the ‘Auld Grey Toun’ of St Andrews and the North Sea, the Old Course, routed roughly in an anti-clockwise loop, leaves golfers completely at the mercy of the elements, with the persistent see breeze constantly changing the character of the challenge. Holes to look out for are a plenty but the most notable holes come during the testing final stretch including the world famous Road Hole 17th. Add to the mix famous landmarks including the Swilken Bridge and the R&A Clubhouse as well as the unrivalled sense of history and you have a golfing experience to die for.
10 – Nefyn & District
Although Celtic Manor and more famous Welsh links layouts such as Royal Porthcawl and Pyle & Kenfig grab the headlines in Wales the hidden gems should not be overlooked. Nefyn & District is one such course. The Old Course at Nefyn is one of the United Kingdom’s best kept secrets, and rivals almost anything in terms of its spectacular situation. A tiny promontory that juts out from the Lleyn Peninsula into the Irish Sea is the setting for ‘golf on the edge of the world’, as Nefyn has been dubbed by many. Heather, blind drives and devilish bunkers are among the hazards that await the hardy Nefyn golfer, who on a clear day may be able to spot the peaks of the Wicklow Mountains across the Irish Sea. There are few more amazing places to enjoy links golf in the UK, so make Nefyn and District’s Old Course a priority on your next golf tour in Wales; holes 12 and 13 are worth the trip alone!